Zigic is told to stand tall

 

Nikola Zigic has received the backing of Birmingham manager Chris Hughton and team-mate Keith Fahey following his costly penalty miss in Birmingham's 1-0 Europa League defeat in Braga.

The Serbian had City's golden opportunity of a dominant opening quarter at Estadio Municipal de Braga on Wednesday night after Wade Elliott was brought down by Ewerton in the area after just 11 minutes.

With regular penalty taker Marlon King dropped to the bench the responsibility was taken up by his attacking replacement Zigic, who felt confident enough to nominate himself in the heat of the moment with the decision not made beforehand.

Yet the 6ft 8in forward could only watch as Braga goalkeeper Quim dived to his left to parry the ball, and Blues were made to pay shortly after half-time as the hosts benefited from a match-winning piece of fortune as Hugo Viana's strike took a generous deflection off Curtis Davies to beat Boaz Myhill.

But Hughton refused to question his decision not to start with King, who scored from the spot in the club's previous Group H match against Club Brugge to secure a 2-2 draw.

"If it wasn't Nikola who took it then it would have been someone else," Hughton said. "If Marlon had been on the pitch there's no guarantee he would have scored. Nikola's a good striker of the ball and you just hope when you get that situation that he scores, unfortunately for us he didn't."

Midfielder Fahey backed Zigic to respond in the right way. "Ziggy's taken it, he's confident enough to take it but unfortunately the keeper saved it," the Republic of Ireland international said.

"He's missed a couple of chances lately but he showed his character on Saturday [against Blackpool], missing a couple and then popping up to get the equaliser. So he'll bounce back."

Defeat, combined with Club Brugge's sensational comeback to clinch a 4-3 victory over Maribor, has left qualification for the knockout stages of the Europa League out of Birmingham's hands with one match remaining.

The Midlanders must beat bottom side Maribor at St Andrew's and hope Braga, who have sealed their progression into the last 32, beat Brugge in Belgium. It also leaves the very real possibility that the Championship club, who have risen to the challenge of European football after a summer of change and off-field struggles, could reach the 10-point mark considered enough to progress but still bow out.

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